Weekly Devotional

What to Do When Your Soul is Bleeding – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

What to do when your soul is bleeding

It’s been a month with no posting, so I’m starting this weekly devotional up again, as promised. 

The only problem is I feel like my soul is bleeding worse now than before. 

2019 was a less-than-stellar year. I committed to too much and ended up working 60+ hours a week, got creatively burnt out, and stressed out over family health issues. 

Because of that, I made the decision to pull back on a lot of my writing tasks this year. I was looking forward to 2020 being better. 

Then it decided to be the worst year in recent memory. 

A close family member was murdered, several others have had severe health crises, including the dreaded specter of a cancer diagnosis for someone very close to me (two surgeries so far, with chemo coming up); then you add in my daughter getting a dangerous infection, then going under for 2 hours at the hospital last week to get her teeth fixed (ridiculous), and several other family members with bizarre issues, including a more distant family member having a boyfriend attempt suicide and end up in a coma. 

Did I mention that most of this happened in the last month or so? 

Add in a stressful book launch, a rushed script-writing job for a producer who was going to pull funding unless I wrote 30 pages the week we found out about the cancer diagnosis… 

And I haven’t even begun to talk about the more distant world events that have everyone scratching their heads.

I feel… empty. 

I just want everything to be okay. 

And I know that everything will be okay. 

My daughter is back to health now. My loved one’s cancer has a high chance of being curable. 

And even if nothing worked out, death is a door we all pass through.

But when we’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t feel okay. It feels like we’re going to either scream, or die from holding it in. 

It’s had me thinking about how much of a treasure the peace of Christ truly is. 

All I want is to bathe in his presence and be soothed. 

I made fun of people who only wanted to use God as a security blanket. 

Then this year scared the junk out of me, and now I just want Jesus to make it go away, same as everyone else. 

But he does it slowly. To teach us patience? 

To draw us to him so that we finally surrender and just spend time with him? 

Because we don’t change quickly, so he moves at our pace? 

Because the world is much bigger than me and my problems, and sometimes he uses my pain for his good purposes, and who am I to complain to the one who sacrificed everything for me? 

But I still complain. A lot. And after he patiently waits and listens, I realize he just wants me to rest in him.

Which is about where I’m at as I write this devotional. It’s all I want. And it feels, in many ways, like it’s all I can do. 

It’s certainly the only thing that brings me any sort of satisfaction.  

So, if you’re feeling the same, maybe we could rest a bit in his presence, together. 

PRAYER

Jesus, thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for all the days you’ve given us on this planet. Thank you for our food, our homes, our families and friends. Thank you for bodies that haven’t totally fallen apart yet. And for the chance to grow closer to you. Thank you for how difficult times push us to rely on you and to realize that we really aren’t in control. It helps me surrender. Helps me let go, and just trust you.

DIG DEEPER

Thankfulness, I’ve noticed, is a good way to combat anxiety and fear. So, I’m making a list of ten things I’m thankful for, and then thanking God for all of them.

Brief hiatus from the weekly devotional… here’s why.

So, you may or may not (probably not) have noticed that I haven’t exactly been staying up to date with writing a weekly devotional this past month.

Well, I’ve decided to take a brief hiatus from writing the weekly devotional.

My plan is to take July off, then resume the same weekly schedule in August.

The reason why is I’ve been overwhelmed. Plus, I’m lazy. Plus, I’m bad at administrative tasks. Plus, I never know what day of the week it is, so I keep forgetting to write the devotional in time.

I am slowly chipping away at the next book, Abram. But I’m behind because I’m doing a LOT of research (which I enjoy conducting about as much as I enjoy cleaning toilets–which isn’t much), and I am taking my time (rather than rushing it like with Eden) to make certain that I don’t burn myself out again (I like enjoying the process every once in a while).

In addition to that, I have a wife and a daughter who I want to prioritize spending time with.

Many of you know I work a full-time job at a non-profit and write on the side.

In addition to writing Abram, I’m finishing up a screenplay for hire, writing a video series for a ministry, finishing up a curriculum for another ministry, and …… you get the picture.

So, I’m taking July to finish some projects and re-organize my life so that I can give this devotional the amount of focus it needs.

Because after only 6 months, we’re coming close to 400 subscribers to the devotional! I appreciate your kind feedback, and am grateful for your support.

It’s because of you and many others that the Fall of Man series has sold around 4,000 books in three months, while a couple thousand more of you have read the books through the Kindle Unlimited subscription reading program, and about 1,000 have listened via the audiobooks. Eden was the #1 best-selling biblical fiction novel on Amazon for most of those three months.

I’ve never felt so encouraged as I have with this launch. I look forward to continuing to serve you.

In the meantime, Christianaudio.com is doing a free audiobook of the month giveaway on one of the three books in my Psalm Series (a series of novellas based on the Psalms). Hit the link below for more info.

The Psalm Series was a multi-author series that I set up and published, where each author took one psalm and wrote a novella based on it. I wrote a fantasy parable based on Psalm 23. Mesu Andrews (yes, the Christy-award winning author) wrote a historical novella based on Israel’s captivity in Babylon. And Carole Towriss wrote a novella about the apostles who endured persecution and looked to the Psalms for encouragement and guidance. They’re great stories. I did the narration on all three.

Mesu Andrew’s novella is available for free in audio format HERE.

The rest of the audiobooks in the Psalm Series are 50% off this month, so if that sounds interesting, snatch them up.

Or, if you’re more of an e-book/paperback kind of person, you can find more info at psalmseries.com. (There’s a 7-day devotional at that website link, too.)

Until August, be blessed. I’m praying for you.

-Brennan McP

I’m Bloodthirsty, You’re Bloodthirsty, We’re All Bloodthirsty! – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

One time, when I tried to share with a non-Christian about Jesus’ wonderful sacrifice, they responded with disgust and said that Christianity is a, “morbid, bloodthirsty, violent, and oppressive religion.” 

I was shocked and incredulous. “You don’t understand, Jesus let HIMSELF be killed to set us free.” 

“I know. That’s exactly what I find repulsive about Christianity.” 

That shocked me into silence. What was he smoking?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he had a point. 

We speak a lot about penal substitutionary atonement (the fancy term for Jesus taking our punishment). But if we focus on that without accepting our utter sinfulness and rebellion, it’s easy to conclude that God enjoys crushing us, or gets a rise out of setting us up for failure. 

Not to mention penal substitutionary atonement doesn’t give the full Biblical significance of Christ’s shed blood. 

Isaiah 53 is where we get perhaps the clearest picture of Christ taking the punishment we deserved. As a result, God gives us “imputed righteousness.” Essentially, that means that he views us as pure, even though we’re not, because when he looks at us he sees that Christ paid our debt. 

But in actuality, this doesn’t filter down into a changed lifestyle. It’s not a substantive change in who we are. Rather, it’s a change in how God views us. And we know there’s more to Christ’s atonement than that.

Where does that “more” come from? 

Let’s follow the breadcrumbs.

First, we read in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The freedom here is not just freedom in pretense, but instead an actual freedom from slavery to sin.

In addition, John 6:54 says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” The eternal life here is obviously not solely referring to the next life, because elsewhere he says that those who are born of the Spirit bear the fruit of the Spirit in this life

That means there is fruit that is unique to the Spirit that he grows in us.

The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t primarily come from him thinking differently about us. Instead, it comes from a change in the substance of who we are. God doesn’t merely consider us “grapevines.” He MAKES us grapevines by giving us his lifeblood. 

We are truly freed to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), insofar as we walk by his Spirit. 

(With total freedom from evil coming in the next life through the destruction of our flesh and the creation of a new pure body and a new pure earth.)

So, it’s not just that God sees we’re no longer deserving of cosmic spankings (in the form of eternal damnation). It’s also a change in our way of life, through his Spirit changing the substance of who we are, which involves changing our desires. 

Every Christian who has walked with God for some time has experienced this gravity that Christ’s Spirit has, to bend our desires to his will. 

The closer we walk with him, the more our evil desires wither, and the more our desires align with his will. 

But it has always bothered me that I didn’t understand the connection between us drinking his blood and our desires being changed.

Then it hit me that sin is inherently bloodthirsty. 

All human fleshly desires, when taken to the extreme, result in bloodshed. 

Hatred taken to the extreme leads to abuse and murder. 

Lust taken to the extreme leads to rape and murder. 

Lying taken to the extreme leads to the denial of life itself. 

Gluttony taken to the extreme leads to cannibalism, because to encourage the consumption of everything is to encourage eating human beings.

Laziness taken to the extreme leads to letting your family, friends, and even yourself die. 

We can complain all we want about Christianity being a blood-obsessed religion. We’re a blood-obsessed race! 

But only in Christ do we find a God subjecting himself to the bloodthirsty whims of broken human beings, to offer his blood to end all bloodshed. 

When we sinned, evil got into our blood. It distorted our life, and we’ll all die because of it. 

But evil will never be satisfied with feeding off more evil blood. It merely grows hungrier, like a fungus feeding on itself. 

When Jesus was before Pontius Pilate and the mob knew he was innocent, the evil within humanity still cried out, “Crucify him!” 

The only remedy to such insatiable desires would be to feed it the ultimate food: the pure blood of a God who never deserved death. 

This was why he said in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again.”

Because pure blood is eternal, and all the sin in the world could spend an eternity gnawing on it only to find itself quenched. 

And so he tells us to symbolically drink his blood, to satisfy not just his wrath, but also our own wicked desires. To not just set us free from death, but to also give new life to our veins.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:24-25

Let’s pray. 

PRAYER

Thank you, Jesus, that your sacrifice both washes us clean, and sets us free from slavery to evil. Thank you that your sacrifice satisfies our desires! Empower us to walk in that freedom, by your Spirit, and to refuse to feed our fleshly desires! Make our evil wither and fall out of our lives. So that we can be totally, completely reconciled to you. To live the full life of actual freedom that you pre-ordained for us in your sovereign plan, even before we were born! Amen. 

DIG DEEPER

What are some of the accomplishments Scripture says God accomplished through the blood of Jesus? Take some time to write out all the accomplishments Scripture claims. (There’s a lot of them!) 

I’m tired. -A Sabbath Selah Devotional (sort-of)

Well, this week flew by, and Friday was half gone before I realized I’d still not written a devotional. So, here I am, at my bed time (I’m basically a grandpa now), trying to churn out something worthwhile. Typing like someone’s tied marionette strings to my fingers, and won’t let me get the words out except by some intense strain of will.

These past couple weeks have been intensely challenging. Death in the family, serious health crises with close loved ones, relational stresses, the list grows longer until it becomes comical.

I’m not saying that for sympathy. Just an explanation of why I’m tired.

Creative energy is different from the energy needed to chop wood. Emotional stresses, anxiety, and fear devour creative energy quicker than a monkey eats a banana. And continuing to create in such a state for very long becomes self-cannibalistic. You begin to devour your own emotions.

So, I just want to thank God for his faithfulness in difficult times like this.

On days when we don’t know what to think — when we’re too tired to think — he’s here. He invites us to lean into him, because he will be our strength.

Have you ever just stopped to realize how incredible that is?

There’s no God like that. No person in the world so faithful, so capable, so compassionate.

Praise God, he’s alive, and he’s alive inside us, and we are his, and he has promised that he is ours.

What a wonder.

PRAYER

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me. Thank you for being everything I can’t be. For your strength when I’m weak. For your confidence when I feel afraid. For your comfort when I feel pain. For your compassion when I mourn. Because you wept. You’re right here in the middle of the pain with me. And you hold my hand every time, and gently pull me through it. To the other side, where the Son always rises–and Death has lost its sting.

DIG DEEPER

Nope. Too tired. Unless it means sleep. Hey, that’s not a bad idea… 😉

Who do you trust when the world goes crazy? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Who do you trust when the world goes crazy?

Recently, it’s been feeling like the world is spiraling into chaos.

I keep thinking, “Who in the world do we trust when everyone in the world seems to be going crazy?”

At our core, we live in a body of flesh, and that flesh is at war with the Spirit of God. We betray God, each other, and even ourselves.

How do we find peace in the midst of such turmoil and distrust, anger and failure, disagreement and violence?

First: we let the Scripture remind us that God is actually in control.

Second: we let the Bible remind us that we aren’t the only ones who aren’t crazy.

And third: we choose to fear God, and to let him (not our circumstances) be the source of our peace.

It’s easy to get depressed when people consistently disappoint you. Friends attack you, public figures betray your trust, and family fails to be the peace you hope for.

Remember when Elijah was running for his life from Jezebel, who was sending people out to kill him?

He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” – 1 Kings 19:10

And do you remember how God responded?

He said that there were seven thousand in Israel who had remained faithful.

And how did he say it? In a gentle whisper.

All the bluster God sent before that gentle whisper (the powerful wind that broke rocks, the earthquake, and then the fire) were to show Elijah that he was in control. The gentle whisper was to show him who he was to Elijah, and that Elijah wasn’t the only one.

There are always people who are faithful. Always those who are striving to live a blameless life. Always those who are humble and kind, and gentle and filled with love.

Even when it feels like they’ve all disappeared.

And even when it seems like the world is out of control, God is in control, and he is the one we truly should fear – not our circumstances.

This is why, in times like these, Scripture becomes the rock I cling to.

King David wrote in Psalm 101 about love and justice, and those who are faithful. When it read it the other day, it suddenly seemed so clear that he dealt with the same garbage we deal with today.

Let the words of that Psalm wash over you. I hope it refreshes you as it has refreshed me.

“I will sing of steadfast love and justice,

to you, O LORD, I will make music.

I will ponder the way that is blameless.

Oh when will you come to me?

I will walk with integrity of heart

within my house;

I will not set before my eyes

anything that is worthless.

I hate the work of those who fall away;

it shall not cling to me.

A perverse heart shall be far from me;

I will know nothing of evil.

Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly

I will destroy.

Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart

I will not endure.

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,

that they may dwell with me;

he who walks in the way that is blameless

shall minister to me.

No one who practices deceit

shall dwell in my house;

no one who utters lies

shall continue before my eyes.

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all the evildoers

from the city of the Lord.”

God promises that what he gives us is so much better than what we can get in this world that we can be at peace even when everything good in the world seems gone.

So cling to him. Dive into the Psalms and let its truths wash over you. Trust God, fear him instead of this world, and know that you’re not the only one.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

God, thank you for being trustworthy and merciful to us. Thank you for promising to be our shelter in turbulent times. Thank you for giving us your Word to be our wisdom when we don’t see the way. Guide us through these difficult circumstances, and protect us as we strive to follow you faithfully. Let us be gentle like you. Keep us from accidentally (or worse, intentionally) slandering others, or from being haughty and arrogant. Instead, humble us and give us the strength to be merciful and kind to others! Amen.

DIG DEEPER

Read through Psalm 101 again and write out the specific traits that King David puts in the good category, and in the bad category. Then take active steps to avoid the bad category this week, and to embody the good category.

God’s Wisdom is Gentle – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

God's wisdom is gentle

When I was a kid and I heard someone promoting a false idea, I enjoyed pointing out their error and arguing about it. 

I thought I was wise and spiritual. Really, I was just a punk.

I justified it by saying, “Poor theology is dangerous, so it’s my duty to put them in their place.”

But let’s see what Scripture has to say about this.

James 3:17-18 says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

What becomes clear even from these few verses is that the entire way I went about “putting people in their place” was evil.

The “wisdom” I was sharing was not coming from a pure motivation. I wanted to be “right,” and to show others they were wrong. It was motivated by pride.

Next, I wanted conflict, not peace. And there was nothing gentle about the way I spoke to people.

I wasn’t open to reason. I was dogmatic. “It’s this way, period. Get over it.”

Neither was I full of mercy or good fruit. I hardly lived out anything I “believed.”

As such, I wasn’t impartial or sincere. I didn’t hold myself to the standard of the text, and I didn’t live it out.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all of this is that I still wondered why my life didn’t bear out the righteousness the Scripture talked about.

Yeesh! I see now the “wisdom” I was hitting people over the head with wasn’t wisdom at all. I am sorry to everyone I ever did this to!

The truth is, this sort of behavior short-circuits God’s work in our lives. And it’s not anywhere near as effective as we think it is.

God is offended when we treat people poorly. And so are the people we’re mistreating.

Instead of pointing out each others’ errors simply because we feel the urge to correct, God’s wisdom urges us to find the right time and the right way to correct error no more harshly than is needed.

If we truly know God, we will be kind like him. We will not be prideful, but instead will treat others as infinitely valuable.

James 4:6-8 says, “’God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

You and me, we’re sinners. We need our hearts and hands purified.

We’re often double-minded in our affections (we serve our own glory, then sometimes God’s glory), and we daily need to bring our focus back to the God who made us for himself.

It’s true that nearly all spiritual growth happens slowly. My growth in this area has been far slower than I feel comfortable admitting. But that’s the reality we have to face, as human beings.

This feels like a goal I’ll be chasing my whole life. But thank God, his wisdom is gentle. And the way he teaches us to be kind to others is both merciful and kind.

He urges us to spend time with him, learning from him what is true and good by his own example of how he treats us.

When we spend time with him, his Spirit changes our own spirit from contentious to peaceable.

Because when we experience peace with Christ, he empowers us to seek peace with others.

When we give up our affections to claim Christ as our most precious treasure, he purifies our hearts to enjoy healthy relationships with others.

A life rooted in and focused on Christ is a life of fullness, peace, and gentle wisdom.

And as he frees us from our fleshly passions, we are actually empowered to correct and teach more effectively in ways that honor and uplift.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Lord, fill us with your gentle wisdom. Train our hearts to desire peace with you and others. To speak gently. To be merciful like you are merciful to us. To be sincere and open to reason. As we spend our days loving you, keep our affections undivided. Be our treasure, Jesus! Our most precious reward. Destroy our bitter anger, jealousy, and contentiousness, and replace it with your Spirit of goodness. Amen.

DIG DEEPER

If you struggle with being contentious, like me, this week, memorize James 3:17-18 and recite it in your mind when someone says something that riles you up. Sometimes silence is a better choice in the moment than to speak our minds. We need time to practice this. This is part of God’s wisdom, too.

PS: Next week we’ll be finishing up the series of meditations on Ephesians (meditations in this case meaning “thoughts”). In case you missed the others in the series, check them out here:

I Made Too Much Oatmeal – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

i made too much oatmeal

The other day, I poured a cup of rice milk into my teapot, heated it to a boil, and poured it over a bowl of instant oatmeal (a CORONA special).

Right away, I realized I’d made a mistake. The oatmeal flakes were drowned in a sea of white because I’d used double the milk that I was supposed to.

I hadn’t read the instructions beforehand. I just assumed I knew how much was needed, and poured in a full cup without thinking.

To make up for the mistake, I did something genius: I poured in a second packet of instant oatmeal. Then started eating.

About two-thirds of the way through the bowl, my gag reflex kicked in overtime.

I ate more than I’d planned, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t choke down the last of that cardboard (I mean oatmeal).

I’d simply made too much.

Have any of you felt that way the last 6 months? Simply overwhelmed because you agreed to doing too much?

It’s easy to say, “Yes,” to doing more things. It’s much harder to “read the label” and make sure we have all the ingredients necessary to pull it off without hurting ourselves (i.e. time and energy).

When we overcommit, we’re emotionally and physically stripped of margin, so that we have little left to give to those we love most (God, family, friends).

Still, even though I know this, I find myself addicted to doing things. If I’m not busy, something’s wrong. Right?

Continue Reading

Taste and See that the Lord is Good – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Taste and see that the Lord is good

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” – Psalm 34:8

That phrase is so familiar it’s become a cliché, drained of substance and believability.

But the core of that verse is the call to reality – to experience the substance of life itself.

You and I live mundane lives. Every pleasure in this world fades as it gets used, and all the colors fade to grey.

Have you ever woken in the morning and felt certain there was nothing facing you the rest of the day that you wanted to remain awake for?

Still, we know that there is one experience (and only one!) that grows more wonderful the more you go back to it.

It may sound odd, but God truly is the only one who never grows old.

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Meditations on Ephesians 5 – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Meditations on Ephesians 5

If you’d like to read Ephesians 5 before reading the below Meditations on Ephesians 5, tap or click here.

Because God has replaced our death with life, he tells us to be imitators of him like a child imitates its father (v. 1). And to walk in love, like Christ loved us. 

This kind of love was shown in how he gave himself up for us. And we also are to give our lives up as an offering and sacrifice to God (v. 2). 

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Do we believe God is who he says he is? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Everyone has an opinion about who God is. But the question we should ask ourselves frequently is, “Do we believe God is who he says he is?” 

We live an opinion-saturated culture. Our feelings are our guiding force (yes, even in the Church). 

“I don’t feel like God is really that way…” 

Do you find yourself saying things like that?

I do often, even without thinking. 

When faced with the reality of what the Bible claims about God, it’s easy to think, “I don’t believe God is like that.” 

Take the idea of substitutionary atonement (the concept that Christ died on our behalf, to forgive our sins). 

More and more people are finding substitutionary atonement so distasteful that they hate the idea of it, and even hate the God who says he commanded it. 

They say, “That version of God is no more than an abusive sky-daddy.” 

But is that what God calls himself? Of course not. 

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